Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Closure is important, it is not a betrayal

 Today I am celebrating a birthday, alone, in a home that I am leaving behind. Maybe not alone. I am surrounded with memories, a lifetime of happiness and sorrows. My love, who left this physical realm some 13 years ago surrounds me. My birthday was such a big event for him. I feel his presence, physically. Strangely what I feel is not sadness. Nor it is happiness. The best description is acceptance and serenity. It is, maybe, what is described as closure. 

When my son was a child, when we moved from one country to another, I used to tell him 'Home is not a place, it is where we are together as a family'. He accepted it, it made him feel safe. Today I am experiencing the same.

The ride to the airport, the flight, and arrival to Beirut airport were an odd experience; a sort of dissociative stage where I was looking at myself from a distance. The moment I got in the car on the way home. I felt my love in the car with me. Opening the house door became an act of love. It is the place that protected us and witnessed most of our struggles, our victories, and failures. 

Sorting and packing what I wanted to take with me, giving furniture and 'things' to friends and family, the rest to charity was tiring, the planning difficult and the emotional baggage heavy. Heartbreaking was having to give up letters, cards, small love you Knick-knacks.... I could not take them all, so had to choose...

Moving is no longer an act of sorrow but of love. It will remain a witness to our love and will not be desecrated by yearning and longing. Now the circle is complete, and I know for certainty that you are with me wherever I am. I can't let you go, it's unnatural, you belong to me, I belong to you. A part of you has grown in me. And so, you see, it's you and me together forever and never apart.

Now the circle is complete. I will always smile to my inner self where my love lives. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Turkish perception of isolation

I am republishing this blog because in view of the results of the recent elections, it explains why Erdogan is surviving and how misreading a country together with wrong Western foreign policies is betraying the ideals of democracy and the people of many countries.

Published on
8/9/17 9:30 PM
Having visited Turkey, quite often during the last few years, I got to love the country and the people.
Istanbul is a city where many cultures and civilizations have met, warred, and blended. Wherever you walk you can see it in the monuments and architecture, and whatever you eat you can taste the rich diversity. The melting pot shaped a modern Turkish citizen that is proud, friendly, hardworking, and generous.

What I wrote sounds like a tourist promotion brochure, yet I deeply felt it throughout my stays in Turkey. 

What affected me deeply is a scene I saw in a popular part of Istanbul. 

The area is known for its high concentration of religious people. Sitting in a side cafe, I was facing a small old mosque built in the ancient tradition of sand stones. Just in front of the Mosque entrance is a tramway station. I noticed, standing at the station, a nice young couple dressed and behaving as any couple in love would in Vienna, Paris, or any other European city. It was Friday prayer time. The next scene was of men getting out of the Mosque passing near the couple that were now kissing. The body language and the eye expression of all the actors indicated without doubt that there is no tension or strain in the acceptance of the men going out of the mosque to the presence of a couple kissing close by the door of the Mosque. For all the actors in the scene it was a regular everyday occurrence. 

You might wonder why this scene impressed me. In Egypt, or Pakistan, or Amman, or even in Lebanon, such a scene is not an everyday occurrence. The men getting out of the Mosque would have been offended and might have even badmouth the couple. The couple would have been conscious of being in front of a Mosque and would have been uncomfortable to touch each other or even, in some countries stand in front of a Mosque. In Gulf countries, it is unfathomable.

It is so sad that today Turkish people feel under attack. The citizens of Turkey are proud to be Muslims and proud to live in a secular democratic country. They do not understand why Europe is treating them badly. They were united, opposition and Erdogan party against the military coup. The EU did not show solidarity. Turkey is often accused of supporting terrorism, yet no Turkish citizen engaged in Islamic terrorism or extremism. Europe is obsessed by the Kurdish issue without consideration that the separatist Kurdish movement is adopting terrorist tactics. What would Spain say if Turkey supported the Basque cause? 

Whether the above is justified or not, these are the thoughts you get when you talk to many Turkish citizens. Whether they support Erdogan or not, they feel under attack.

It is time for the European Union to realize that they are antagonizing the population of Turkey. 
It is time to make the necessary overtures to the people of Turkey by understanding their fears.
The Turkish model is the best path to fighting Islamic extremism.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Prince Charles got a raw deal; how will King Charles fare?

After the coronation I feel the need to say that sadly it seems that whatever he does, he will be misunderstood. He needs a PR campaign; Buckingham PR people are doing a bad job.

There were so many small symbolic gestures incorporated in the coronation process that nobody noticed or understood.

It's the colors of the commonwealth but they arranged them like that on purpose. Charles chose this pattern to honor Ukraine. A subtle political position.



He made the nobility angry but not restricting the pledge and attendance to them. He replaced many of them with opinion leaders from under-privileged regions and communities. Inclusion.

During the coronation 'to serve' was mentioned so many times, and this is not the regular process, he made sure to add it. Service.

The screen used during the anointment process had leaves with the names of commonwealth countries.

So many indications of commitment to environment and the natural earth in the material used and decorations.

and all I could hear was the US media asking if Harry would be on the balcony or not! The guy decided to not be a part of it. It is not a family matter; it is a matter of 'service and duty'. 

King Charles is misunderstood and will get a bad deal if he does not change the team responsible for media and PR at Buckingham.

This does not mean that approve of the Monarchy and the UK system of nobility privilege. As far as it exists. I like King Charles III.

Published on 9/11/22 10:55 AM

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales main concern in the 1970s was the environment. 

“After billions of years of evolution, nature is our best teacher,” the Prince of Wales said. “In this regard, restoring natural capital, accelerating nature-based solutions and leveraging the circular bio-economy will be vital to our efforts.”

 Prince Charles, once dismissed as a plant-talking oddball

His first major speech on the environment was in February 1970, when the young prince warned, “We are faced at this moment with the horrific effects of pollution in all its cancerous forms.”  “At the beginning, everyone thought he was crackers, the mad prince who had these strange ideas. They wrote him off completely,” said Penny Junor, a biographer who has written volumes about Charles and the royal family. “He’s been saying these things for 50 years, but world has caught up to Charles, hasn’t it? she said. “He’s certainly not a crank now.” (the Washington Post By William Booth and Karla Adam November 1, 2021 at 10:18 a.m. EDT) 

Another of his concerns was youth and opportunities, his focus, getting young people into education, training, or employment. He set up ’The Prince’s Trust' in the mid-1970s, a trust that is today an umbrella for 17 charities in addition to being the patron of 400 charities. From environmental concerns to a wide range of issues that affect people’s everyday lives, and the communities in which they live.

Sure, he is not a saint, and his charities are not above doing wrong. But his profile should have given him the recognition for caring about inequalities and his avant garde views on the environment and climate change that is today the concern of most. Sadly, he was only judged as the monster who made Princess Diana miserable. An issue that has nothing to do with public service or his role and a Prince.

I am not a monarchist. I am a feminist and social non-conformist tilting to left politically. But I could never understand the public love story with Princess Diana. She married Charles because he is a Prince, and she gained all the benefits of becoming a princess. She never understood the concepts of duty and public service. She wanted it all. She was intelligent and used the media to get support and undermine her husband and the Monarchy, forgetting or not caring that it also affected her children. A bit selfish. I could not see in her an activist or feminist, to the contrary. 

Anyway, it is old news and I hope that the people will give him a chance.

Strange that a person like me would be positive about a Prince or a King? True, but today I cannot except respect Queen Elizabeth II. She represents stability, decency, and public service at a time when people have lost faith in politicians and heads of state. Remember Trump, Johnson, Orban, and many more around the world. She served her country until her last breath. And until the people of the UK decide to change their form of government I will give King Charles, their head of state, the consideration he deserves. I admire his early on environmental commitment. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Soudan: is the world abandoning hope? Or did the world betrayed Sudan

Four years later 

''What is happening in Sudan is a mobster shootout, and the world is running away from it.'' ''Along with Western nations, Sudan’s Arab and African neighbors, as well as China and Russia, agree that the conflict is a disaster. Failing to halt it is a devastating indictment of the multilateral order, and especially of the quad that had supposedly steered the negotiations. ''


Hemedti known for his part in the Darfur genocide of the Janjaweed has built ties to major regional powers by renting out the RSF to fight in Yemen, on behalf of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and by forging links with General Khalifa Haftar, head of the so-called Libyan National Army, and with Wagner, the Russian private military company affiliated with the Kremlin. These international players don't care about the Civilian revolution or democracy. 

When Hamdok, a civilian ruler was sworn in, the Trump administration did not care to support him, they delegated US policy to Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. None of these regimes wanted to see a democratic revolution and they all preferred to deal directly with their favored generals.Washington unconcerned about giving Hamdok credibility, did not lift sanctions or provide debt relief. Without economic stability he did not have the necessary clout to dismantle the military-commercial complex. The Biden administration did not do better, they decided to continue a policy of turning a blind eye or worse, they even refused to impose sanctions targeted at the warlords’ respective business empires. 

Betrayal at all levels, can we wonder how things deteriorated. No international power wanted this war. Yet each of the major players is backing a faction. Cairo backs Burhan, the US, Qatar, and Turkey to a lesser extent. The UAE, Wagner group and the Kremlin back Hemedti.
''The hope is that the Saudis can convince Cairo and Abu Dhabi not to fund or arm their respective favorites, and the United States can champion the democratic movement that it has so shamefully betrayed.''

Published on 10/6/19

The “great revolution” of Sudan has succeeded and the Government and people and will now rebuild and restore the values ​​of human coexistence and social cohesion in the country as they try and turn the page on three decades of “abhorrent oppression, discrimination and warfare,” Prime Minister Abdullah Adam Hamdok told the United Nations on Friday evening.

Seems nobody is hearing. Why?

Bashir, the President of Soudan who was on the International Court list of wanted persons is now in prison. He was removed by a popular uprising that did not deviate from peaceful protests despite the violent response by the dictator.

For month the people of Soudan were in the streets, women had an important role during the protests and have a place and voice now in the new government.
Yet the US is reluctant to remove Soudan from the list of countries that back terrorism. Though not long before the revolution, Trump was holding talks with Bashir…

When South Soudan broke away from Soudan, the world ran to support the secession and funded development, removing the debt of the country to help it. Today nobody is ready to talk of lightening the burden of a country that was a victim of the Cold War, when the world turned the away from a military Islamist coup that plunged Soudan into despair for decades.

Maybe values have no more any say in foreign policy. Seems that all the talk of freedom and fairness of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, were just propaganda to fight the Soviet Union.
It is so sad.

Yet hope prevails today in Soudan, and I have faith that they will move forward.
A young Soudanese man that works as a labourer in Lebanon went home for Eid Adha, just after the fall of the regime. He came back with a feeling of pride and hope.
He said that hope prevailed. People were smiling and laughing. He told me that before, everyday people fought on crowded public transport vehicles. Fights that often turned into shouting matches and fist fights. Today, people talk and try to solve problems by negotiation. It is like if the culture of the country changed.

He also told me a story that I cannot confirm, however, he has no reason to lie.
He said that when 300 young people were found killed by the security forces, the same night, a jeep filled with Kalashnikovs stopped in the square of his neighbourhood and the driver just left it there unattended. The elders of the neighbourhood immediately went and surrounded the car, forbidding the youngsters to take the weapons telling them that it was a ploy by Bashir. If one round was shot, then the army could break the sit-inns violently and pretend that there were terrorists among the demonstrators. And as we learned, these days all is permitted under the title 'War against terrorism'.

Maybe the Soudanese learned the lessons of Syria.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Who is fighting for Putin's Russia and why?

On 15 Feb 2023 I wrote this blog, today I read this article on the Guardia confirming the worrying consequences of Wagner recruiting conflicts

Some time ago I wrote the post Volunteers fight for Ukraine, mercenaries fight for Russia

Then we heard that Wagner’s Yevheny Prigozhin, recruited thousands of Russian prisoners to bulk up the force in the autumn, offering them freedom after six months if they fought in Ukraine. We even saw videos of him in prison recruiting convicts. https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/09/15/video-shows-prigozhin-recruiting-russian-prisoners-for-ukraine-fight-a78801

Hundreds of convicts recruited into the ranks of Wagner, have been killed or severely wounded in Ukraine, where the mercenaries have been tasked with some of Russia’s most desperate campaigns. They are used as cannon futter, and if they do not comply, they are shot or worse. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/sledgehammer-execution-russian-mercenary-who-defected-ukraine-shown-video-2022-11-13/

We know that Putin is trying to avoid high casualties that could come back to bite him. The rationale for the use of recruits is clearly expressed when Prigozhin said in a statement that 
it was better to send a “murderous real estate agent” who in war was “worth three or four, or even more dandelion boys”, including “your son, your father, your husband”. “Consider what you want more: for a murdering realtor to be sent to fight or for it to be your loved ones, who you’ll likely end up receiving back in a zinc coffin,” he added
Prepared to accept a heavy number of casualties, sending waves of convicts to tire Ukrainians proved effective in the battle of Bakhmut. But is this sustainable, can one base a war strategy on recruiting convicts?

Recent media reports said Wagner was having more difficulty recruiting prisoners because they had heard about the high casualty rates among Russian convicts sent into battle.
“What percentage of our guys who went [to Ukraine] are still alive?” one prisoner asked a Wagner recruiter in December, according to a report by the independent Mediazona outlet. “At that point, [the recruiter] started to stammer; he couldn’t give an answer, and he ended his speech there.”
But a video released last month showed several dozen former convicts – among them murderers, drug dealers and domestic abusers – now heading to their home towns in northern Russia, supposedly having earned pardons by surviving six months in Wagner’s ranks in Ukraine.
The release of the convicts who volunteer for Wagner is contentious among Russians, many of whom fear the men will go on to commit further crimes. Last month, the Kremlin defended the practice, saying convicts were being pardoned “in strict adherence with Russian law”.
“It’s often people who have the most years left on their sentences who are willing to go into Wagner,” said a prisoners’ rights activists based in Russia. “And that means, usually, it’s people who have committed the most serious crimes.”
Even pundits traditionally close to the government have raised doubts that scouring prisons for some of their most desperate inmates, sending them on violent missions to Ukraine and then releasing them back among the public is sound policy.
“Now another group of prisoners are returning from the [war] zone. It is necessary to understand whether psychologists have worked with them?” Ivan Melnikov, a Russian human rights activist, said in a recent radio interview. “We may end up with a colossal relapse of criminal behavior in the near future if nothing is done.”
When mobilisation was declared hundreds if not thousands of young Russians decided to vote with their feet and flee the country. Many of them are from the IT sector and other professionals. https://theconversation.com/russians-flee-the-draft-as-the-reality-of-the-war-in-ukraine-hits-home-191491

This is not sustainable. Russians cannot be wrestled to fight in a war that does not sense to them.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Why Biden as well as Trump should not run again

 I admire Biden for his policies and agenda. He is one of the greatest American presidents. He passed an infrastructure bill that will have positive consequences for the US economy eventually. He pushed for better distribution of wealth measures. He pushed hard for gun control. This is among many other policies.

On the international scene he regained alliances badly undermined by Trump. He regained some credibility for the US on the international scene.

So why am I against his running for a second term? He is old, quite old. Sadly, he should have been elected for the first time in 2016. Democrats missed on this when they chose Hilary Clinton. 

I am in my late sixties so cannot be accused of ageism. I am old, he is much older. It is true that today my experience gives me a strength I did not have when I was much younger. Yet, I am no longer as fit as I was. I am active, working a lot. But to be honest, after 65, I started feeling the weight of age. I do not multitask as easily as before, my stamina, compared to my previous performance, is less. Physically, I get tired easily and have much less endurance. And most of all I lack the punch and will to fight I had; I am cautious. I have a lot to give, but to be honest, not in leadership positions, rather I see my role in mentoring. And Biden could be a remarkably effective mentor.

Sadly, the political party system is all about competition between ideological factions and more so personal gain and personal ambitions. So, the new President will want his own team with an eye on the next elections rather than a cooperative process to promote an agenda even if it is for public good.

As I said I admire Biden, but when I see him talking or moving, I see an old man, not an energetic leader. An image that will not bode well with voters.

When I see Trump, I see an old bitter angry man rambling. On top of not approving his policies and the MAGA version of the Republicans. So, the same argument goes.

If Trump runs and Biden runs against him, then two negatives annul each other. But if a young energetic Republican runs, then it is a problem for aging Biden. Even crazy DeSantis can be more attractive. 

Friday, April 14, 2023

The forgotten children of Syria

And today we see Assad joining again the Arab League. No respect for the people of Syria and their suffering.

Children gasping for breath following chemical attacks. Children burried under the rubble following barrel bombing on civilian targets. Children love their childhood in refugee camps. Children growing in the darkness of a 12 year nightmare.

Did we forget?

Whatever the reason and justification, history will not forgive or forget.

CNN 2 hours ago (5 April 2017)
World leaders expressed shock and outrage Tuesday at reports of a suspected chemical attack in northwestern Syria that killed scores of civilians, with one UK official suggesting the incident amounted to a war crime.
They still suspect... trying to balance between their priority of fighting Daesh and making a deal with the devil.
Did they look at the picture? Did they glance at his television screen? Did they notice the innocence slaughtered?
Did they realize that the children that died of suffocation are not different from their children. They used to play with toys, study, break things around the house, get grounded, cry and laugh.

If they did, what did they feel? Did it move a small part of their soul?

I doubt because it is not the first time it happens.
It is not the first time I write about it...
I do not want to lose hope, but I am close.
It is an ugly world.

Abdulhamid Yussef cradles his twins Aya and Ahmad before they are buried in Idlib following a Sarin gas attack TELEGRAPH.CO.UK


Thursday, August 21, 2014

In remembrance of Syrian children that died in the chemical attack

One year ago today, hundreds of children took a deep breath, had a seizure, coughed and died of suffocation.
They were the victims of a chemical gas attack.
Their crime was to be the children of Syrians seeking freedom.
The world looked upon their tender corpses and turned a blind eye.
They were not Kurd, Christian, Yezidi or member of any minority.
They were unlucky to be born to Syrian Arab Sunni parents who are the majority in Syria.
They were unlucky because their death did not threaten the interests of powerful nations.
They will never get justice and they are seldom mourned or remembered.
Poor poor little angels, my heart bleeds for you


Friday, August 21, 2015

In remembrance of the forgotten children of Ghouta

A team of UN chemical weapons inspectors have confirmed that the nerve agent Sarin was used in an attack on the Ghouta agricultural belt around Damascus on the morning of 21 August. 2013.UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the UN Security Council that he believed the attack constituted a war crime. The UN report, he said, detailed the "most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them" in Halabja in 1988.

That was two years ago.
Until today nobody was held responsible, even investigations were not launched.

Obama and Putin agreed that the only punishment was to confiscate the weapon of the killer and let him free to kill more and more children.

Assad gave up his chemical weapons and improved the techniques of indiscriminate barrel bombing.

Almost exactly two years after the devastating chemical weapons attacks, Assad targeted the same region and the world did not take action.
"The government's bombing of (Douma) yesterday is devastating," The UN's Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura said. "Hitting crowded civilian markets killing almost one hundred of its own citizens by a government is unacceptable in any circumstances."
Sunday's series of raids on the town of Douma was one of the bloodiest regime attacks in Syria's four-year war.

A Syrian father who lost his son in the horror of  the two years after declared
"I do not understand why they got rid of the chemical weapons. They were more humane that the actual barrel bombs the regime is using. At least chemical weapons did not blow the children to pieces. Those whose children were killed by Sarin two years ago were able to hold their children and kiss them before burying them. I was not able to. My son was torn to pieces by the barrel bombing."

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Wish Lebanese show hosts would stop ruining it for us!

Today I was watching a show with an exceptionally reliable expert who worked in IMF for 45 years. I was extremely interested to hear what he had to say. His analysis was very pertinent. But God, I was so frustrated when the show presenter did not stop interrupting to state cliches and populist nonettis. She aggressively countered his professional information and data with just opinions, opiniated opinions not based on any research or data.

The result is that she transformed a discussion that could have been particularly useful into interruptions when the expert reached some interesting information that I wanted to hear. I honestly was not interested in her shallow two-dimensional statements. Pure populism, not journalism or media!

And this is not the first time I have faced the same situation. It is becoming a trend. The more interruptions and cliches the better it is a characteristic of the young generation of Lebanese show hosts and interviewers. 

Even worse are the show hosts who bring opposing politicians or opinion leaders and fuel the discussion into a shouting match.

Even veteran hosts are being driven to emulate this behavior though to a lesser extent, as if ashamed of what they are doing.

It is infuriating, but it is also dangerous. The shows are followed by a wide audience and present a warped view of the situation and of ethics. They promote populism and clichés. People in Lebanon still rely on television and radio to get their news and form their opinions. 

Sorry, this blog is also just a cry, an expression of frustration. It does not add anything of value.


Friday, March 31, 2023

My love story with facemasks

In the entrance to my apartment, in lifts, in public transport, in supermarkets, people glance when they see me wearing a facemask. Sometimes I feel alone in a strange world and then rarely do I see a fellow facemask wearer.

Not long ago, I was just one face masked person among a multitude. It was obligatory, then just in certain place, then recommended, then just not mentioned. I got used to wearing it. The FFPE is quite comfortable as the duck beak form allows breathing. There is an empty pocket that makes it relatively comfy. So why not wear it? It protects me from viruses and bacteria whether covid-19 or flu or mere colds, and many other airborne viruses.

I wear it in closed areas such as bathrooms in restaurants, lifts, and small shops with no aeration system, I wear it also in crowded public spaces such as airports, supermarkets etc. And surely in doctors' surgeries where people are sneezing and coughing. 

I am happy that I did not catch the flu though there were several outbreaks since covid-19 restrictions and rules were dropped. I wish I were familiarized with facemasks when I used to travel on weekly basis and ended up catching up so many diverse flu variants in each country I visited.

In an ideal world, people who have the flu would put on a facemask to protect others.

Sadly, facemasks, same as vaccines, lockdowns etc. became political flags. Does not make sense.

I agree that some covid-19 measures did not make sense. It was a new virus that was not really understood and quite deadly until vaccines were introduced. I did not let it ruin my life. I adhered, but not to the letter. I hugged my son and granddaughters, rarely took covid tests, did not scrubbed my hands to the bone with sanitizers, never put on a mask outdoors and met with friends outdoors. I got my four vaccines and used facemasks in closed areas. I sailed through the pandemic without catching it even once. 

I wish people used common sense and stopped being followers of populism at all sides. I was never a conformist. I will keep on using facemasks even if people look at me as if I were crazy. What do I care. I never cared and will not start to. 

Below some facts, not a matter of opinion, just facts

 Face masks (or other face coverings that cover your mouth and nose) are one of the most effective measures that help reduce the spread of the virus. The face covering helps to avoid spreading of the virus by stopping the respiratory droplets which contain viral particles.

A surgical mask is primarily used to protect patients and healthcare workers from people who may have a respiratory infection or to protect sterilized or disinfected medical devices and supplies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health officials recommend that people wear masks in public settings as a way to slow transmission of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. While mask-wearing may be new to most of us, doctors have been wearing medical-grade N95 or surgical masks (which offer more protection than do cloth masks) during surgeries or patient interactions as part of their daily routines, for many decades.  

We recently spoke to several Yale Medicine doctors about the medical reasons why they wear masks. They are protective on several levels, explains Manisha Juthani, MD, an infectious disease specialist. “It is really important for me to wear a mask when I'm taking care of patients who have a respiratory virus that I could be at risk of getting and then potentially giving to somebody else.” In fact, the only way she can treat patients with different infectious diseases is by wearing a medical-grade mask so she does not spread any disease or get sick herself.  

David Mulligan, MD, chief of transplant surgery and immunology, knows the importance of masks even beyond the operating room. “When we make rounds, for example, on significantly immuno-compromised patients, we will have a mask on to try to help protect those patients from the spread of disease and to try to protect other patients from bringing potential pathogens like bacteria and viruses from one room to the next,” he says


Saturday, March 25, 2023

Woke is where American extremism meets religious extremism abroad

 Sometime ago I wrote 

Italy covers nude statues for Rouhani visit

Today I read in the Washington Post by Alexandra Petri

The principal of Tallahassee Classical School was forced to resign this week after sixth-grade art students were shown images of Michelangelo’s David and parents complained. Yes, that David. No, I am not making this up. According to an interview with the school board chair by Slate’s Dan Kois, the principal of the charter school was supposed to send out a letter from the art teacher alerting parents that the nude statue would be shown. 


I can’t stop thinking about what this warning letter might have said.
Dear Parents,
Just wanted to let you know that in this art class, we’re going to be showing the students some art. Will that be okay? You signed up for a classical education, in theory — at least, that word is in the name of our school! — so I had sort of hoped it would be!
Here is all the art we might be showing your children, with reasons you might object. Please let us know if you object!
this is followed by a listing of famous works by masters and how they can be viewed as indecent to conclude 
To avoid any other controversy, the rest of the class is just going to be pictures of “The Scream” (Edvard Munch), over and over!

 This might be funny. A tragicomedy of sort, Kafkaesque in nature.

Enough is enough. Some parents are using their rights to oppress the majority and plainly shut them out. It is time for those parents who do not agree with extremist puritanism to speak and act. 

Shouting and bullying by religious extremisme changed Islamic culture in the Middle East since the nineties of the 20th century. Just compare pictures from the seventies with today, you can see the change by the increase in women wearing Islamic headscarves. ISIS was a natural progression.

The US needs to beware of a puritanism push lead by populist politicians using it to help them acceed to power heralding an era of a new 'inquisition' culture called anti-Woke struggle. 

For those who believe that it does not concern them, let them look at how it will affect their lives. Suppressing imagination, creativity, and tolerance leads to a society where prejudice reigns and to a deep antagonism for democracy.  

We could argue that many studies indicate that exclusionary environments account for a 3% GDP loss. We could state many studies about the effects of prejudice on social cohesion and human development. I want to just mention common sense. Social cohesion is necessary for any country to develop and flourish and be happy.

It is a nightmare to imagine myself living in a world where neighbors view each other across a 'woke/anti-woke' divide. At the end they refuse to live together, countries split, then the splinter entities split again along new lines of exclusion. They can only survive under autocratic regimes. 






Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Things that do not make sense in Beirut, pure absurdity!

 I know that the situation in Lebanon is crazy, but even amid the craziness there is usually some order. Below are some of things that I experienced. They did not make sense. No rational explanation other than incompetence and a total disregard of customer rights.

The DSL connection being unstable, one must insure and alternative method. The solution was mobile Wifi. The service is acceptable. I was satisfied until I found out that you cannot recharge your bundle before the date the service cuts! Does it make sense to you?

We all know that official electricity is inexistant. One must rely on building generators or subscriptions from illegal suppliers, who, by the way, are not registered as working companies who pay taxes.  Then suddenly, the government decides to increase electricity prices. Here I am not talking about consumption costs, rather monthly subscription costs. Meaning that you must pay a substantial monthly fee for darkness.... Does this make sense to you?

With lots of pomp, the government announces that they are going to supply 4 hours of electrical power per 24 hours. Yay! but this is done haphazardly without any scheduling. So, people living on upper floors never know when they will be able to ride the lift. We do not know when we can heat water to take a bath, we are in total darkness and clap for having the honor and happiness to get 4 hours of power every 24 hours. Does this make sense to you?

Having a Lebanese mobile number, I was hoping to use it during my stay. Noting that you must recharge it every month to keep the number, so units accumulate. As soon as I arrived home noticed that there was no reception. Seems that the carrier I am on has no reception in my area.  I did not use it once. Does this make any sense to you?

The water supply is almost nothing, so we buy water on a weekly basis to fill the tanks. Guess what, the yearly water fee is now tenfold higher than last year! Does this make any sense to you?

As soon as the Lebanese pound rate to USD changes, all prices in supermarkets change, and I mean immediately. This practice is inflationary. And nobody wonders why this happens. Not all costs are related or paid in USD, yet the whole price of the product increases according and in line with the USD rate. Pure profiteering and marketeering, they are accepted by the population as normal practice. Does this make any sense to you?

These are but a few examples, I could go on forever.... Beirut does not make sense.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Beirut was a dream, it became a nightmare

 Lebanon has been through ages a country of immigration. Since the 19th century wave after wave, the Lebanese have left their shores in boats, then by air seeking a better life. The Americas, mostly Brazil and the US were the main destinations. After the 1975 civil war, Australia and Europe were added to the traditional destinations. The number of citizens of Lebanese descent in Brazil and the US exceeds the number of Lebanese residing in Lebanon. Many of those who left since the 1970s kept a link to the country and returned to visit family during summer vacations or at Christmas. 

Things changed and are changing since the last wave of migration that followed the economic collapse of 2019. More than three hundred thousand left the country in a three-year period, 36% in the medical profession, 25% in the academic profession, judges, engineers, artisans, in short anybody who has a profession or who excels at what they do. What is very disturbing is that those who left in previous waves and kept an anchor in the country are giving up. They are cutting ties.

A heartbreaking testimony

Visiting Beirut was a joy, reuniting with family and friends, enjoying Lebanese food near the Mediterranean shores, sipping coffee sitting in the mountains enjoying the fresh air while looking over traditional Lebanese houses and gardens. Today every time I plan a visit it is anxiety and a planning nightmare; how to ensure electricity and water supplies in the apartment I kept in Beirut.

I climbed three flights of stairs. No electricity, no lift. I opened the door and felt home. A wave of memories hit me. It felt good. Despite all the noise and air pollution from generators spewing fumes, despite the electricity cuts that the paid generator is imposing (governmental electricity is zero hours per day), I felt good. The apartment is a depositary of happy times, it is a personification of my choices. Each item is exactly what I like. The pictures, the paintings, the linen, the towels, everything. 

A week later, my heart is breaking. I realize that I need to give it up, to cut the final tie to the country. 

Keeping the apartment is not reasonable. The monthly costs are increasing and the money I kept in a bank in Beirut to spend when I visit is now under locks by the banks with no prospects for access anytime soon. The governmental electricity company decided to increase electricity monthly fees even though there is no electricity supply. The governmental phone company decided to increase phone and internet monthly subscription. The governmental water company increased yearly subscription by 100-fold though there is no supply, we must buy water. The monthly building expenses increased dramatically. And each time I come stay, on top of regular expenses I must pay around USD 300 per month to get basic services. Crazy! 

The government is just increasing taxes with no effort to address the economic collapse. Kafkaesque. 

So, I am taking the decision to cut ties. It is so final that I am barely able to comprehend. Is it a divorce process or a death loss? I do not know. I am mourning. It will take time for me to heal if I ever do heal.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

My story with alcohol

 is an article I read lately on The Guardian.

Last orders: how we fell out of love with alcohol


It is a remarkably interesting piece; it informs that alcohol consumption is on a downward slope in young people. Then it argues if it is a good thing, medically, and then explores the link between creativity and alcohol. Read it, it is worth it.

I immediately though 'but I love wine, Ouzo, single malt, Irish coffee, the Austrian Maria Theresa coffee or Fiaker, Limocello,....' Then it hit me. In the article alcohol is equated with being drunk, or excessive drinking, or alcoholism. As usual we try to see things in white and black. It is either good or bad. In fact, moderation in everything would be an acceptable solution.

Sounds boring wisdom that old people would say. Wait, I am old!

Before 21, I was what you could call a drinker. Maybe, not really. Growing up in the roving sixties and seventies, to be cool and liberated, especially for a woman, necessitate to be a drinker and smoker. I was the best at everything (wink). At university, I drank many guys under the table. Impressive, no?

Honestly, I never liked being drunk or losing control. I still do not and stay away from even pain medications. It's quasi paranoia. The fear of not being in control of my life, my actions. 

I could enjoy flirting, dancing, hearing music, and sex more when I was sober. So, I made a lot of hoopla to look good, but I did not get drunk often. Don't tell anybody (wink) it would ruin my reputation of having been a party girl which I was, but in full control of my senses.

Then, when I stopped needing to put a Maske, I became what you can call a social drinker. 

social drinker
  1. a person who drinks alcohol chiefly on social occasions and only in moderate quantities.

My pallet appreciates the warm bouquet of a good wine, I love the smell and taste of Ouzo in summer, I appreciate alcoholic coffees in winter and love the tangy taste of bitter or sour liqueurs. And to be honest, sometimes I like the fizzy feeling of being a bit tipsy. Never a lot. So why stop drinking?

I am definitely an epicurean. 

 Cheers! Prost! Sante! Salud! Felicidades! ваше здоровье! Saluti! and so many more!